Thursday, April 5, 2018


Two men wearing dishdasha, the traditional Arab garb, kneel in the dust and activate a detonator for an explosive charge. And so began the story of the Bahrain International Circuit. When one thinks of a desert, everyone thinks of sand, but in this small island state on the Persian Gulf, the terrain is predominantly rocky and explosives were required to prepare the ground for the race track.

This Grand Prix has been on the calendar every year since 2004 with the exception of 2011 when it was cancelled because of civil unrest. Occasionally, it has been the first race of the season, while this time it kicks off the first pair of back to back races of the very long 2018 season, with Shanghai following on one weekend later. That places extra demands on the race team and its logistical support.

The Sakhir circuit is not far from the capital, Manama, in fact the whole island is not much more than 50 kilometres in length and the route from town involves a motorway, followed by wide flag-lined streets.

The track itself is also very wide – over 20 metres at some points – making for a variety of racing lines. The circuit layout includes pretty much every type of corner, but the main feature is heavy braking. In 2010, the 6.3 km long “endurance” track was used but it was not particularly popular with the drivers. Apart from the glass conical tower, what stands out are the floodlights that light up the track for qualifying and the race ever since the GP became a night race back in 2014.

Manama lacks the glitz of the other Emirate capitals, but there is a contrast between the old quarter with its markets and the modern skyscrapers. As for the weather, there is no guarantee of sunny conditions all weekend, even if the temperatures are unlikely to dip below the 30 degree mark. And don’t think it never rains in the desert here, as it did just that on the Sunday of the first race…

Scuderia Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen arrived late last night in Bahrain, and by late morning they showed up at the track that will host the first night race of the season on Sunday.
The win and double podium finish in Melbourne has only served to reinforce their focus and determination for the coming weekend, in which Seb is expected to take the 200th start of his F1 career.

"I think this year we have a better car, but we have to make it work at its full potential. At the beginning of the year it is normal that you still have to get to know the car. Obviously the time that we have on track to try things is limited, but we have some ideas for here that we are going to try. As for myself, I need to do my job and we need to do our job as a team. We only look at ourselves and try to improve and I am confident, as the car has potential."
Kimi Raikkonen: "Melbourne was a good and straightforward weekend. Overall we had a good feeling with the car and decent speed . The Sakhir track is very different and with completely different conditions. Practice will be in the daylight and the race in the dark, but we are used to it. It’s quite hot and the feeling with your car is different. I’m happy with the way we started the season, but we need to keep working hard, improve things and hopefully we’ll achieve a good result again with both cars. We need to be up there straightaway and consistently. We are still in the early days of a long season and there are still many things we need to learn about this car. I think there’s a lot of potential; where it’s going to take us in the end, we don’t know. But we’ll give our best, that’s for sure."